The Disruption Wave.

  |  Branding & Design Strategy  |  Deskey

Let’s talk typewriters.

Twenty-seven years ago, you had a typewriter. Doesn’t matter if you were a business or just a person who wrote stuff, you had a typewriter. How else were you going to fill out forms, write the Great American Novel, send a letter to the editor or communicate with your friends and family? You could handwrite, but that was for savages.

If you asked a typewriter salesman in 1987 to estimate his future earnings, it would not be a cliff with a typewriter-shaped hole at the bottom, but that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Computers were here, and iPads were coming. Now, all typewriters are antiques. Not some. All.

Now. Let’s talk car salesmen.

Tesla is an electric car manufacturer, the brainchild of Elon Musk, who helped invent PayPal and is now taking over NASA’s role in space exploration via SpaceX. This is a company with a vision for the future. It wants to sell cars direct to customers, not through car dealerships. And that is making car dealerships, with salesmen who have become synonymous with shady dealings, very nervous.

Disruption is a word we like to use a lot like a laser beam, focusing on the inefficiencies in the market and eliminating them. But in fact, disruption is a wave crashing over an industry, because once you start to disrupt, it’s a cascading event. Computers disrupt typewriters, then writers, then newspapers, then publishing, and then finally the entire concept of the written word itself. 140-character posts would have been considered laughable ten years ago; now that’s how we get our news.

Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” It’s tough not to feel for the car salesmen who have survived through embargoes and recessions and peak oil. Their jobs depend on them not understanding that it is easier, simpler, safer and cheaper to buy a car with a point and a click. Heck, even the words “point” and “click” are out of date. A tap. A voice command.

We are all guilty of this. We want to believe in a future that is measurably like the past, but the truth is that we are all blinded by the screens we have today. Step outside today, and look around. You may not know how the next disruption wave will affect your work, but it’s coming. Build an ark.


How We Uncovered an Insight.

  |  Branding & Design Strategy  |  Kristen Heimerl

Deskey has been working hard on the branding work for Hamilton County’s major infant mortality initiative, Cradle Cincinnati. Although our part is just a small one, we thought it would be interesting to give people a glimpse of how we put this campaign together. This is part of a series of four articles that discusses how we named it, how we discovered our strategy, how we designed it, and how we got started in the first place.


It was on the way back from a focus group that I realized what Cradle Cincinnati was fighting for. I had offered a ride home to one of the participants, and an unlikely pair we were. She a young African American mother, seven months pregnant with her eighth child, conceived by almost as many fathers. Me, a WASP-Y single professional, long on degrees and pampered pedigreed pets.

What happened in that car was a kind of magic. Together, we learned that we are so very, very similar.

We shared stories about the paths we chose for our lives and the mistakes we made along the way. We shared our love for writing and our dreams to publish our manuscripts. We also shared the comfort and shameless guilt that comes from devouring gooey, crunchy cheese sticks in the drive-thru at White Castle. But mostly, through our stories and, more so, from the words unspoken, we united on something greater, something that characterizes us all: our desire to be loved, and the all-too-universal human condition of searching outside of ourselves to fill the holes we feel from within.

Finding common ground is where conflict melts and progress is made. It is, in fact, when we find our sameness that we change the course of the future. We change the world.

Since its inception, I’ve had dozens of amazing moments and interactions in the course of shaping the identity of the cross-county collaborative that is now called Cradle Cincinnati. When that beautiful mother carefully lowered her burgeoning body into the bucket seat of my car, the first thing out of her mouth was an apology. An apology for being her. For being pregnant (again). For being a burden. For zigging when it maybe would have led to a better outcome for her to zag.

But this is not just her concern. This is our concern. This is what we all might face if we found ourselves in different circumstances, facing different choices, feeling different pressures. We all want to be happy. We all deserve the chance to be.

Understanding this problem is not so hard to do if you begin with one fundamental truth: at the highest level, we are all the same.

This is what we’re fighting for. When I saw everything I had in common with this young woman, I was also able to see our differences. Then the choice becomes mine: I can choose to focus on our differences to build a wall. Or, I can choose to focus on our sameness to build our unity.

At the heart of Cradle Cincinnati is the concept of “community.” We all belong to different communities. Some of us even build physical structures around ours to feel safe. But when we raise up “community’” from “mine” to “ours,” we get to something better, something universal that we can all embrace regardless of our differences; there are seasons to our lives—there is a time to give and a time to receive. If we’ve been fortunate, as most of us involved in the administrative side of Cradle Cincinnati have, we know that our past is sprinkled with supporters, supporters who helped us achieve our success, who gave us an opportunity to demonstrate our worth, who wrapped us in love, and who helped us see hope.

We know, out of responsibility or fear or the Golden Rule or whatever moves us, that we must give to receive.

So we do. Even giving a ride home can profoundly change a life. I just didn’t know, at that very moment, that it would be mine.